Somaliland president, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, has chosen the path to becoming a war criminal. Is it fair to characterise him a warlord after winning a landslide election in Somaliland one year ago?
Somaliland is at logger-heads with Sool, Sanaag and Cayn leadership (SSC) , an alliance of pro-union sub-clans
and Puntland administration which ruled Sool’s administrative capital, Las Anod until October 2007 when Somaliland forces led by Col. Axmed Maxamed Aadan (aka Dalbac) who , along with 250 men, defected to SSC forces on Monday 7 August 2011. “I decided to leave Somaliland forces because I saw hatred and clan mobilisation to massacre my Dhulbahante clansmen and clanswomen” he told BBC Somali Service. “In 2007 when Somaliland forces captured Las Anod it was a power struggle between two administrations but now Somaliland is attacking a clan.”
Somaliland is regarded as a part and parcel of Somalia, but it has formed institutions, security forces and held two successful elections in parts of what was known as Ex-British Somaliland. Those achievements and the argument that Ex-British Somaliland and Ex-Italian Somaliland were two states before union in 1960 are the basis for Somaliland government’s quest for recognition as a republic. In Hargeisa there is a debate about the need to talk to Mogadishu about secession. Political advisors and lobbyists for Somaliland government advised president Silanyo to choose a path of secession similar to that of Southern Sudan and Eritrea: talking with your partners (unionist) is the best alternative to the automatic recognition Somaliland is searching, he was advised.
This week Somaliland forces, made up of clan militias belonging to the clan for which Somali National Movement had been formed in 1981, clashed with SSC pro-union supporters. Somaliland calls its forces a “national army” but Silaanyo’s will liable for human rights violations on the scale of war crimes if his forces attack any part of what it regards as Somaliland as long as the international community supports the territorial integrity of Somalia. Successive Mogadishu-based transitional administrations have never sanctioned attack on Somaliland, why is Somaliland administration pretending it is enforcing its laws when its forces attack districts and regions with population supporting the Somali unity? Does Somaliland think secession is only possible through the barrel of gun? When Sanaag and Cayn leadership and its supporters say “we are in favour of Somali unity” they are expressing a political view just like Somaliland supporters when they say “we are in favour of secession.”
The international community has an obligation to rein in Somaliland president. Lessons from southern Somalia are instructive here. Islamist groups emerged after warlords and politicians in the south failed to solve inter- clan differences peacefully. And that is why people in southern Somalia are wary of trusting politicians who failed them in the first place. Relying on politicians like Ahmed Abdi Habsade, current Somaliland Minister for Information , who hails from Las Anod and described the elders’ judgement on Kalshaale between two neighbouring clans as incendiary before being appoted a minister in president Silaanyo’s cabinet , is an exmaple of a bad choice showing that Somaliland president lacks conflict resolution skills of his predecessor. Nearly two months ago Somaliland sent contingents of its clan-based security forces to enforce the outcome of the elders’ judgement on clashes at Kalshaale. In an interview with BBC Somali Service this week, Somaliland minister of Information, Haabsade, contradicted himself by supporting Somaliland president’s decision to send armed groups to Kalshaale. Somaliland president has got to explain why his forces attack peaceful districts. Are his forces fighting unionists? Is he defending Somaliland’s secessions? Answering these questions will mean the difference between choosing the path of a war criminal or the path of a peace-loving statesman with creative solutions to political challenges from a clanish society.